The month of May is dedicated to motorcycle awareness, an attempt to raise awareness among the driving population of the dangers inherent in sharing the roads with motorcycles and other smaller vehicles.
As we think about Motorcycle Awareness Month, we need to take a hard look at the statistics. They show that motorcycle riders are more at risk for injury, with nearly 5,000 lives lost to motorcycle accidents in one typical American year - a number that appears to be increasing.
The design of motorcycles can make the tiny vehicles difficult to see, easier to crash and leave the rider more exposed than drivers of cars, trucks and SUVs. It doesn't mean they don't deserve the same, if not more, attention on the roads.
As you cannot remove the risk to life and limb from a motorcycle entirely, it must be controlled. You can play a part by wearing appropriate protective gear and keeping a steadfast eye on other drivers. There are situations that you simply cannot avoid as the rider of a motorcycle, because you have to trust the other drivers with whom you share the road. Many of the serious or fatal injuries that motorcyclists incur are through no fault of their own.
Of course, it doesn't mean you avoid planning for safety. The best way to ride a motorcycle is to prepare and attempt to avoid dangerous situations wherever possible, taking control when you can. Examples are:
- Never drive a motorcycle with less than full attention. Intoxication is deadly to motorcyclists, who encounter more fatal accidents involving alcohol than any other sort of vehicle.
- Avoid other cars as completely as possible. If possible, try to avoid driving during times of high traffic or poor visibility, and it is especially important to avoid the places and hours where other drivers may be intoxicated. When are cyclists most at risk? Weekends, when more than half of all fatal motorcycle accidents occur.
- Avoid proximity with other cars. Half of all deaths on motorcycles involved other cars. Three quarters of these deaths involved a collision to the front of the motorcycle. This means that the vast majority of motorcycle fatalities occur because of either head-on collisions or drivers who did not see the cyclist and turned directly into their path.
- Wear the best safety equipment possible. This is the final line of defense, but it can make the difference between a survivable injury and a fatality. Helmets have been proven to reduce harm and prevent fatalities in an appreciable number of cases.
Motorcycles are a lot of fun, but riders are more exposed to the carelessness of other drivers. Motorcycles can be used, managed and mastered. Approach motorcycles with caution, forethought and planning, and you will have the best chance possible of having a great ride.